Zero o'clock by C.J. Farley

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For Geth, zero o’clock, Blursday, March 2020, marks the commencement of the Covid crisis, with the president saying that it was all airtight. But New Rochelle, where Geth lives, becomes one of the first Covid-19 containment zones in the U.S. Her diary tells the story of the increasing restrictions, the paranoia and the burgeoning conspiracy theories.

Geth is a Black American teenager, in her final year of high school, awaiting news of university acceptance, and at the same time having to cope with the shooting death of her father, her mother’s new cohabiting white boyfriend, and then, to top it all off, she is expected to share her room with the boyfriend’s stepson. Geth also has OCD, which means compulsive tapping of her face, checking on taps and locks, and washing her hands, the latter not so unusual in the time of Covid. She is also an enthusiastic follower of the South Korean boy band BTS, and likes to create playlists of hit songs to reflect her moods.

The breakdown of society with the Covid pandemic is chronicled in Geth’s diary along with her thoughts and musings about many aspects of life. In many ways, the story becomes a consideration of various philosophical ideas, but presented in the language of a teenager trying to juggle her fears and anxieties.

Larger themes of political manipulation and Black Lives Matter are entwined with themes of identity and coming of age. The thing that makes this novel so readable is the teenage voice so brilliantly captured by the author C.J. Farley.

Themes: Covid-19, Pandemic, Black Lives Matter, K-pop, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Coming of age.

Helen Eddy